Speech at a Reception for the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee European Championship Winning Team
Áras an Uachtaráin, Friday 8 Novembeer 2019
Míle fáilte romhaibh go léir ag Áras an Uachtaráin, agus muid ag tabhairt onóir do bhuaiteoirí Chraobhchomórtais na hEorpa Sár-Fhriosbí na mBan, foireann na hÉireann. Ba ghníomh gaiscíochta é an bua!
[You are all most welcome here today to Áras an Uachtaráin as we honour the Ireland Women’s Ultimate Frisbee European Championship winning team on their wonderful achievement.]
This is the first time that any Irish national Ultimate Frisbee team has won an international championship, and I am delighted to have this opportunity to personally salute your achievements and congratulate the team, your coach and, by extension, acknowledge the contribution of parents, family and friends, teachers and mentors and all who helped bring each of you to the point of your success.
I welcome many visitors to the Áras every year, from all walks of life, but it is always greatly uplifting to meet with those who, through their sporting prowess, represent us so magnificently on the world stage and present an image of our country of which we can all be very proud. It is a great pleasure, therefore, to greet the 21-woman squad that this Summer finished top of the 15-nation tournament in Gyor, Hungary and to welcome you to Áras an Uachtaráin.
May I congratulate Jennifer Kwan, the President of the Irish Flying Disc Association, Sarah Melvin, the Team Captain, Ian French, the Head Coach, and Richard Buggy, the Team Manager, as well as all of the squad of 21 players, their coaches and families.
Your success is, I know, the culmination of many years of hard work, of perseverance through setbacks and difficulties and, at times, of personal sacrifice in order to avoid letting the team down. It is also a resounding acknowledgement of the special qualities you each possess – qualities that mark out those who are not only very gifted people, but people of determination and resilience, and strong team players committed to achieving excellence as a team.
Choinnigh sibh leis, mar fhoireann.
Many of you, I know, also have full-time and demanding jobs, or are studying for degrees and professional qualifications. Combining careers and studies with the training necessary to compete and succeed at the highest levels in sport presents a considerable challenge, placing strong demands on your time and your energy. I commend you all for taking on that challenge and for all the sacrifices you make as you work to represent Ireland so successfully at international level.
Ultimate frisbee has been popular in Ireland since the 1990s, with club, university, youth and school teams representing the country in various competitions and championships since. It is still, however, a minority sport and it is people like you who will help to accelerate its growth in popularity. That is greatly important as the rules of ultimate frisbee are unusual and have much to teach our young people, as they prepare to be responsible and ethical citizens. As a self-refereed sport, ultimate frisbee places the responsibility on the individual to ensure that fairness and justice prevails, and that no player will cheat or bend or break the rules in order to achieve an unfair advantage over others.
In a society where, so often, rules and regulations are interpreted in the narrowest way possible, or contorted in the pursuit of self-interest, the development of the capacity for self-regulation has become increasingly imperative. Indeed, the ability to regulate one’s own behaviour is one of the most important qualities called for in our society, and it is greatly encouraging to know that ultimate frisbee’s lack of referees so embodies the spirit of the game.
It is a spirit which brings with it, of course, specific challenges as each player must take full responsibility for resisting any temptation to take advantage of the system, demonstrating the moral courage that must also lie at the heart of true and engaged citizenship.
Tá misneach morálta ag teastáil ó na himreoirí, agus tá an misneach sin agus an féinsmacht a ghabhann leis ag croílár saoránacht beo.
The unique ethos that lies at the heart of ultimate frisbee is one which is to be greatly encouraged and which embodies sportsmanship at its very best. I thank you, therefore, for being such positive role models for the young people of Ireland.
Spreagann sibh daoine óga páirt a ghlacadh i spórt, agus na tréithe pearsantachta a bhaineann le saoránacht ghníomhach a fhorbairt.
[It is people such as you who inspire our younger generation to become involved in sport, and to develop the qualities and characteristics that will enable them to become engaged and participative citizens in their future lives.]
You are also great ambassadors for women in sport, and that is greatly important. There is widespread agreement on the importance of sport in the overall development of the human person, of the values it teaches, as well as the physical and mental health benefits. It is vital that women participate in sport and are given every opportunity to do so, both from a lifestyle and enjoyment perspective.
Irish women’s sport has never been stronger and, in recent years, the achievements of our female sports stars have contributed enormously to the overall success of Irish sport.
Regrettably however, and despite the extraordinary sporting achievements of Irish women, both individual athletes and those involved in team sports who have made us so proud on the national and international stage, Irish sportswomen still struggle to attain the same levels of recognition as their male counterparts.
The involvement of the Irish Flying Disc Association as an official partner of the ‘20x20 If She Can’t See It, She Can’t Be It’ campaign – which aims to change Ireland’s cultural perception of women’s sport by 2020 and to increase media coverage, attendance and female participation numbers by 20 percent – illustrates your determination to make progress in this important area, and I wish you well with that endeavour which I greatly hope will succeed in changing cultural perceptions of women’s sport.
For us the success of the Ireland women’s team is a community success, one that requires a distinct community focus as people come together in a spirit of camaraderie enjoying sport, and often forging life-long friendships. It is one of the greatest and most valuable characteristics of sport generally, and is to be cherished and nurtured.
Over the past number of years, the Irish sports community has made a huge effort to ensure that all female players are given equal opportunities to participate at all levels. Across the country, great efforts have been made to ensure that all female players have a fair share of facilities, resources and opportunities, and that the work we have done to specifically promote women in sport has paid off in the success we achieved this summer.
There can be no doubt, however, that it is leading sportswomen like you who will open doors to sport for more young women, inspiring future generations of girls to benefit from being more physically strong, mentally healthy and, most important of all, equal citizens out on the playing fields.
Mar fhocal scor ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabhail libh go léir arís as teacht anseo inniu, agus as ucht gach rud a rinne sibh chun an bua a bhreith– an obair chrua, na babhtaí traenála, na híobairtí agus an spiorad foirne íontach.
[In conclusion, may I thank you all once again for coming here today, and for everything you have done in order to be victorious – the long hours, the training sessions, the sacrifices, and the wonderful team spirit that has brought you to this triumphal moment].
Comhghairdeas libh go léir arís.